Loyalists vs Northerners --- Mass Spearmen? Really?

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Loyalists vs Northerners --- Mass Spearmen? Really?

Post by Calm »

I'll be up front and say I'm not a great Loyalist player---I only recently picked them up.

So I looked around on the forums and How To Play guide, and the prevailing advice is mass spearmen.

However, messing around vs the AI, I don't find myself very convinced that mass spearmen is really that great vs Northerners

The reasoning seems to be that spearmen do good damage (true) and have good hp/cost (true), and that, especially vs a Northerner opponent that thrives on outnumbering the enemy. spearmen can even the odds.

All well and good. However, here are the issues I seem to be facing:

- Loyalist/Northerner is a matchup heavily focused around the time of day, which means you need to be able strike hard in the day, and turtle/retreat at night. Spearmen don't seem to be very good at either of those; they have mediocre mobility which makes them not fantastic for lightning strikes or fast retreats. They are stymied by enemies taking cover, and at night, they don't benefit especially much from most cover themselves, nor do they have good resistances. Their primary defense seems to consist of their first strike ability, which is excellent against, say, charging horsemen, but not much of a threat at night-time to grunts---or, more seriously, assassins.

- I mentioned above that Loyalist/Northerner is ToD-focused, but this is actually more true for Loyalists than for Northerners. Every turn that goes by means poisoned units take 8 more damage, and trolls regenerate 8 more hp. In other words, Northerners can accomplish *something* during the day, while Loyalists can't do much at all at night. There are some things they can do that aren't affected: move, benefit from resistances (HI, Cavalry/Horsemen), benefit from cover (for loyalists, mostly just castles and merfolk). Where do spearmen fit in this picture? All they can really do is occupy village and castle hexes---which is definitely useful, except that Assassins make occupying non-village hexes less good, and Spearmen are mediocre at chasing them down during the day.

- When day comes, it's time to go balls-to-the-wall and murder stuff. Spearmen are not particularly great at this. They can't deal with cover particularly well like mages, they're not mobile enough to get to the back line, and they can't capitalize on ToD advantages as well as, say, Horsemen.

- To the extent that the guiding idea behind mass-spearmen is to out-endure the Northies, Assassins shut this down hard in tight spaces. The reasoning for this is that there just aren't enough villages. When day finally does come, I end up finding many of my Spearmen are too weak to go out and fight anyway. I can see a place for mass spearmen on a large map if you sent spearmen out to sit on random village hexes, but a phalanx-style grouping feels more apt to counter a cavalry charge than a regen-poison blob.

So, what have I been having success with instead? A mix of cavalry, horsemen, bowmen, mages, HI, and, never fear---spearmen.

The core idea is to completely abandon the idea of retaliation damage---that when it's most needed (night), it sucks the most. Therefore, emphasis is placed on hitting really hard at day, and using non-ToD abilities to make the night hurt less---mostly mobility and resistances. Special mention should be made of how aggressively I play with bowmen and mages---vs Northerners, daytime completely shuts down any kind of burst damage they can do, allowing them to make plays that would be much riskier vs another faction or at another time of day. Spearmen are retained, but not in any numbers that could be called "mass" --- really only for village holding. However, the chief defense is how much ground I took during the day. I can afford to retreat a lot at night because mages and horsemen mean that I can take the ground back easily come day.

Despite how authoritatively I've written, I am a noob at the matchup and am still working on this style. Perhaps there's something I've missed with mass spearmen that's causing me to screw it up. I'd be interested to hear comments or corrections from any readers.
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Re: Loyalists vs Northerners --- Mass Spearmen? Really?

Post by Velensk »

I'm going to just open by saying, that playing against the AI is still the wrong way to figure anything out. It may be better but it's still not going to teach you anything real. It's still quite easy to defeat the AI northerners using only cavalrymen if you know how even after the AI improvements and cavalry nerf. If you try that against a human these days you'll find the new orc archers to be quite punishing. The things the AI is weak to will not be the same things a human is weak to and the threats an AI presents will be different than the threats a human will present.

That said, spearmen are pretty important in this match-up but probably not as important as they are in others. More than any unit, they're what make it a mistake for your enemy to be standing out in the open at day. They're also what give you staying power to stick around and hold ground at night when appropriate. They're actually better at this roll than heavy infantry against any unit other than assassins and grunts despite being cheaper. Relative to the price you have no unit that does the level of damage they do nor that has the durability.

That said, you're entirely correct that they are not the unit which lets you break a trusting northerner nor control your positioning on the map relative to time of day. Going heavy on spearmen is a rather defensive play. Against most opponents you'll likely find that you'll probably want about as much in the way of cavalrymen as spearmen and you'll need mages to break defenses open.

Since I'm bothering to post here, I believe you were the one advocating burners as a counter to spearmen in another thread and claimed that mass saurians is a Hodor-esk gimmick. I'd dispute that claim. Given an appropriate map, mass saurians will cause even a very skilled loyalist player some trouble early in the match. It is a tactic that has an expiration date within match but it's not a gimmick as even an opponent who knows the best way to answer it will gain no advantage over a player who applies it well. They merely may not die immediately. Once that expiration point is reached, burners are indeed pretty important but they are also very punishable by any loyalist who manages to take initiative from you for even a moment.
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Re: Loyalists vs Northerners --- Mass Spearmen? Really?

Post by Elder2 »

First of all - defeating AI is trivial on normal 1v1 wesnoth maps provided the difference in gold is nonexistent or not very big. What you need to do is defend and wait until ai runs out of units on your defenses. And spearmen are the best for that job, to better counter grunts or trolls you can add in more cavalry and to deal more damage you can add in horsemen or mages, though it is not really needed since ai cannot defend, it will send units at you so the best strategy is defending and killing attacking units until ai runs out of them and you get some lvl ups. Aside from the fact that the old guides are a bit outdated for certain factions, spamming spearmen is still very much a valid strategy vs northerners, in pvp usually the trick is to survive the first night rush and spearmen are the best for that, then your superior damage output and speed can allow you to attack northerners or if they rushed and failed - you are already winning. To attack orcs you can use a variety of units, i would advise classical spearmen + a few mages and maybe a few cavalry, though spearmen + horsemen, spearmen +cav and horsemen or even mass cavalry or cavalry and horsemen could be a decent option, your damage output (arguable the best of all factions) at day is so much superior to the northerners damage that you can be at large unimpeded as long as superior orc numbers don't trap your units and force you to engage in unfavorable, proponged fight when your units are getting worn down.

Also, like Velensk mentioned saurian spam, though a kind of a brute force approach and maybe not the most optimal option (mixing in clashers may help unless you are rushing, then mass saur is advised) is still the best strategy. Winning a fight against massed spearmen at day is an titanic effort for drakes and not in reality the best chance the drake has is counting on the fact that the loyalist player in fact is not massing spearmen, but instead recruiting less effective units, too many cavalry or horsemen, mages anticipating saurian threat or god forbid HI.
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Re: Loyalists vs Northerners --- Mass Spearmen? Really?

Post by JatinNagpal »

Mass Spearmen? No, that's a good strategy only if you can find sufficient villages to occupy and can send some leaders along with them.

Otherwise, you should add horsemen and magi and strike really hard in the day, using spearmen to absorb the damage till the enemy army is destroyed (like an escort). Bowmen are fine too, but I wouldn't recommend slow, easy to hit HI unless impact is needed.

In hills with scarce villages, an army of spearmen can be killed easily using grunts, whelps, assassins and archers. In plains with abundant villages, whelps will be less of a problem, though one might use fast wolves there and surround the spearmen at night.
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Re: Loyalists vs Northerners --- Mass Spearmen? Really?

Post by Memrarch »

Well i'm not very good player ( im not very patient )
but even if i'm agree with the base idea ( spam units isnt worth it )

I think you underestimate spearmens vs northmens.

First, spearmens can have 6mp (7 with royal guards) with quick trait which mean only wolves and nagas can overtake them without a doubt. Young trolls are slower with 4 mp.

I think buy mages vs orcs is a dangerous strategy because they die quickly in melee and when orc player can buy 2 grunts you can buy only one mage. Bowmens are more gold efficient for just a few dmg less plus then can defend themselfs with more decent melee attack.

You also forgot to mention that your leader can have leadership and can significantly boost their dmg and - very important point- nullify the malus during night.

Plus spearmen have a ranged attack and even if its pretty poor, you shouldnt underestimate this , especialy during the day.

Spearmens are one of the most resilient units in the loyalists army only surpassed by heavy infantrymens but HI are hard countered by trolls and orcish bowmen's fire arrows
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Re: Loyalists vs Northerners --- Mass Spearmen? Really?

Post by Argothair »

I've been buying about 20% Spearmen as expendable cannon fodder to screen Mages and Horsemen from enemy attacks. Even a Level 2 Mage at full HP can be killed in one round by a trio of Grunts at night, but they're too valuable to leave idle for half the game -- so I'll make a ranged attack on a Troll with a Mage, or charge an Archer with a Horseman, and then put 1 or 2 Spearmen out in the front of the formation to minimize the enemy's ability gang up on my more vulnerable units. If the Spearmen survive, I'll rotate them out to heal, and if they die, well, they did *some* retaliation damage on the way out, and they protected a more expensive unit with more XP.

It's cold-blooded, but it works for me.
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